TRAI bans ‘differential pricing’ for India

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New Delhi, Feb. 8 (ANI): In a setback to Facebook’s free internet scheme, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today ruled out differential pricing, saying that no company via any offer could charge discriminatory tariff for data on the basis of content effective immediately.

“We have come out with a regulation, which is essentially mandate that no service provider shall charge differential pricing. If a service provider is in contravention of these regulations, TRAI may direct them to withdraw tariff,” TRAI chairman R.S. Sharma told a press conference.

“In the same situation, TRAI may also order the provider to pay Rs.50, 000 for each day of contravention up to Rs. 50 lakh. We have made exemptions in case of emergencies where differential pricing could be offered in case of grave emergencies,” he added.

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He further stated that a service provider may reduce tariff for accessing or providing emergency services at times of grave public emergencies, adding that the price should not be based on source, destination, type of content or the application.

“We have used the term ‘discriminately pricing’ in place of ‘difference of pricing’. The pipes on internet should be agnostic to the packets. TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years,” he said.

Sharma stated that exceptions have been made in terms of closed networks, adding that anything on the internet cannot be differentially priced.

“This regulation comes into effect from its publication in the Budget. There are savings, which means if there are such plans and actions or tariff plans among the consumers, we should allow those tariff plans to use to protect the interest of the consumers,” he said.

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He further said that the internet service providers would not be allowed to discriminate on pricing of data access for different web services.

The ruling has brought an end to the debate on net neutrality going on in the country over Free Basics services offered by social media giant Facebook.

Facebook’s Free Basics plan, launched in many developing countries, offers pared-down web services on mobile phones, along with access to Facebook’s own social network and messaging services, without charge. (ANI)

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